28 February 2015

Arsenal-Everton tactical preview: whose season has gone further off the rails?

What the heck happened? This was supposed to be a season full of promise, a season in which the squad gelled and rose to heights unseen in living memory. The signing of a dynamic scorer, a keeper coming off of a Golden Glove-worthy season…and yet, somehow, it’s all crumbled to dust and forlorn, furious fans are up in arms. Indeed, Everton’s season has not turned out as hoped.

All clever (?) misdirections aside, this is not the Everton we faced a season ago. Yes, we dumped them from the FA Cup, but beyond that, earning an early-season draw at the Emirates and thrashing us 3-0 at Goodison Park in April. They gave us all that we could handle and more on their way to finishing fifth, their best finish since 2009, and all the talk centered around how Roberto Martinez was a tactical genius, Tim Everton was the most underrated keeper in the Prem, Baines was the best left-back in England, and Lukaku would be this generation’s Drogba. Instead, Everton languish in 12th position, just six points from the drop-zone, having won only six matches to date—better than only four other clubs. If there’s a saving grace of any kind, it’s that Everton are the only Prem side to persist in the Europa League, having advanced to the Round of 16.

What does this all mean for Sunday? On paper, this is largely the same side that finished fifth a season ago. Lukaku, that Belgian Blunderbuss moved from loanee to signee, but he’s misfired more often than a 19th-century shotgun, but we’d be poor students of history if we overlooked the potential in him and the rest of this squad. Heck, the last time we faced off against a “too-defensive” side with an underwhelming striker, we emerged on the wrong side of a 1-3 scoreline. That’s a reference to Wednesday, as close as I’ll come to touching that turdblossom for today.

Ever since slaying Man City, we’ve looked dodgy (bludgeoning Villa aside). Loss at White Hart Lane. Nervy wins over Leicester and Crystal Palace, with a somewhat-better one over Boro in-between. The abomination against Monaco. Long story short, we can hardly afford to scoff at Everton, woeful though they’ve been. They still have a gritty squad capable of pulling off the unexpected—for as much as that was their calling-card a season ago. If we play as we’ve played in the last few weeks, and Everton play as they did in draws with Man City and Liverpool, this one could get ugly.

  • Everton 2-2 Arsenal (23.08.2014)
  • Everton 3-0 Arsenal (06.04.2014)
  • Arsenal 4-1 Everton (08.03.2014)
  • We first clashed with Everton on 5 April 1905—a 1-0 win for Everton.
  • No club has conceded more goals from their own errors than has Everton.
  • Everton has dropped more points from winning positions (17) than has Arsenal (14).
  • Arteta, Diaby, Debuchy, Ramsey, and Wilshere have all been ruled out; Flamini is doubtful.
  • Ospina; Gibbs, Koscielny, Gabriel, Bellerin; Cazorla, Coquelin; Alexis, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.
  • Our squad should rally in response to Wednesday’s embarrassment and add to Everton’s Prem woes: Arsenal 2-0 Everton.